Stock futures were little changed Thursday after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said that an interest rate hike could come soon.
S&P 500 futures added 0.05%, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were down 0.01%, and Nasdaq futures increased 0.2%.
Yellen, in comments ahead of a speech on Capitol Hill, reiterated that an interest rate hike could come "relatively soon," backing up recent hawkish comments from other Fed members. Yellen noted that the labor market continued to show strength and that the economy appeared to have recovered from a sluggish start to the year. Yellen also repeated the stance that the current state of the economy will likely "warrant only gradual increases in the federal funds rate over time."
The comments were part of a speech she will address to the Congressional Joint Economic Committee at 10 a.m. on Thursday. The Fed chair last testified before that committee in December of last year, prior to the Fed's decision to hike interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade.
A December rate hike already had a high probability among Wall Street pundits with any doubt after Donald Trump's recent election as U.S. president quickly evaporating. The chances of a December rate hike currently sit at 90%, according to CME Group fed funds futures.
Consumer prices in the U.S. got a boost from higher gas prices in October. The inflation metric climbed 0.4% in October and 1.6% over the past 12 months, its highest level in two years. Core prices, excluding energy, rose 0.1% in October and 2.1% year over year.
Housing starts in October surged 25.5% to an annual rate of 1.32 million, the Census Bureau reported on Thursday. The measure hit a nine-year high in another sign of robust housing demand. Homebuilder permits increased by 0.3% to a rate of 1.23 million.
U.S. jobless claims held at their lowest level since 1973 over the past week. The number of new claims for unemployment benefits declined by 19,000 to 235,000, according to the Department of Labor. The less-volatile, four-week average fell 6,500 to 253,500.
Crude oil spiked on continued hopes of a production freeze agreement among major oil producers. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih added to hopes on Thursday after expressing his confidence that Organization Petroleum Exporting Countries would follow through on the details of a deal sketched out at a meeting in Algeria in September. OPEC will meet in Vienna on Nov. 30.
West Texas Intermediate crude was up 1.6% to $46.28 a barrel.
Cisco (CSCO) - Get Report slid 4% before the bell after issuing weak guidance for its second quarter. The company anticipates current-quarter adjusted earnings of 55 cents to 57 cents a share and for revenue to dip 2% to 4%. Analysts anticipated earnings of 59 cents. Cisco topped first-quarter profit estimates, earning an adjusted 61 cents a share, 2 cents above expectations.
Walmart (WMT) - Get Report fell 1% in premarket trading after the world's largest retailer earned 98 cents a share in the third quarter on $118.2 billion in revenue. Consensus was for 96 cents a share on $118.6 billion. Same-store sales increased 1.2%. Walmart also updated its full-year earnings outlook to $4.20 to $4.35 a share, upping the lower-end of its range from $4.15.
Staples (SPLS) reported a drop in profit and revenue over its third quarter as same-store sales declined at a faster-than-expected pace. The stationery retailer saw same-store sales decline by 4% over the quarter, sharper than a 3.6% drop. Excluding store closures and foreign exchange fluctuations, overall revenue declined 2%. Current-quarter adjusted earnings estimates of 23 cents to 26 cents a share also came in on the weak side.
Best Buy (BBY) - Get Report surged more than 7% in premarket trading after topping third-quarter estimates. Adjusted earnings of 62 cents a share breezed past consensus of 47 cents. Sales increased 1.4% to $8.95 billion and exceeded estimates of $8.85 billion. Domestic same-store sales rose 1.8%, above a 1% target.